Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pay what you want for Humble Indie Bundle 3

Five awesome cross-platform indie games. Pay what you want. DRM free. Sound appealing?

Check out the Humble Indie Bundle 3, available until August 8!

You get to decide how the payment is split up -- between the independent game developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Child’s Play charity. And they take PayPal, so you don’t even have to expose your credit card number.

For cheapskate, non-regular-gameplayers like me, it’s an opportunity to explore some titles super-inexpensively -- and if it turns out I actually like one, I can top up the payment later. You can literally choose to pay a penny for $50 worth of games! Though most people are considerably more generous.

There’s typically at least one ‘quality’ game in these bundles (in the first indie bundle it was World of Goo, in the second it was Osmos), and it looks like Crayon Physics Deluxe is the one I’ll be spending the most time on (though Cogs looks pretty fun). [This is not to disparage the efforts of the other developers; different people will find different games enjoyable, and in fact that’s part of the appeal of the bundle -- you get to try a bunch of games at once, and what one person likes another might not. For example, I hated the gameplay for Samarost 2 and Machinarium, but critics seem to think they were works of beauty.]

I like the model, as an experiment. It lets people pay what they feel is a fair amount, and the game developers get a boost of revenue -- and exposure -- that they might not otherwise generate on their own.

Past bundles have been quite successful, selling over $1.25- and $1.8 million worth of games.

Interestingly, 25% of the traceable downloads (for the first bundle) came from piracy -- people posting and forwarding the download links that are sent upon purchase. Since the games are DRM free, there isn’t any restriction on this activity.

This lends itself to an interesting cultural commentary on people’s attitudes towards intellectual property with respect to software game development -- when even a penny is sufficient transactional friction to drive someone to obtain software through non-standard channels.

Karl Marx would probably have something pithy to say about this. How would his labour theory of value be influenced by a world where the outputs of labour can be digitally replicated at (essentially) zero cost?